In Focus This Week
Motor Vehicle Departments: Bedrock of American Democracy
By: Lisa J. Danetz
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) play a crucial role in our elections. This report seeks to raise the level of recognition of the agency’s role – among policymakers, state agency officials, advocates, and the public – to improve their partnerships and the functioning of our democracy.
Since the passage of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA or “motor voter”), state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) have evolved into a bedrock of the modern system of election administration—for voter registration in particular. Since then, their role in our elections has expanded to include multiple types of voter registration, identity verification, and maintenance of accurate voter registration lists.
While the current scope of DMV involvement in election administration is relatively unappreciated, raising the level of recognition of the agency’s role – among policymakers, state agency officials, advocates, and the public – is important to improve the functioning of our democracy.
This report, Motor Vehicle Departments: Bedrock of American Democracy, serves as a primer and guide for these audiences and other interested parties on the history, parameters and robustness of their current role, and provides a catalogue of everything DMV officials do in election administration.
Unfortunately, the evolution of the DMVs’ role occurred without initial buy-in from DMV administrators or an expansion of resources for DMVs to fulfill their growing role. Rather, in most states, state reliance on DMVs expanded without a commensurate expansion of available funding. Sustained and regular interaction, discussion, and consideration with respect to the scope of DMVs’ role in election administration – among their many other core duties – is happening only now, over a quarter century after passage of the NVRA.
The level of election administration reliance on DMVs is now so great that the public, policymakers, and DMV and election officials should reconceptualize DMVs as integral partners in implementing American democracy. Rather than a non-election entity, DMVs – on an everyday basis – are providing irreplaceable support in delivering aspects of our election systems. For more information or guidance reach out to Lisa J. Danetz via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa J. Danetz conducts this work on behalf of Democracy Fund and has worked in the voting rights, money in politics, and democracy field as a policy expert, advocate, and lawyer for 20 years. She has developed an expertise on voter registration through government agencies and, over the last several years, has been doing work within the AAMVA (DMV) community to provide information and support related to their voter registration and election responsibilities. In addition to her work with Democracy Fund, she has worked with Brennan Center, Demos, and the National Voting Rights Institute, among others. She received her B.S. from Yale University and her J.D. cum laude from New York University School of Law.
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Election News This Week
Threats to Democracy: In a story that probably surprises no one, CNN is reporting this week that at least eight of the people arrested in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol did not actually vote in the November 6 election. Jessica Stern, a Boston University professor who has spent around 30 years researching extremists, said that while she hasn’t spoken with the individuals involved in the events at the Capitol, from her interviews with other violent extremists, she believes a number of factors could have been at play. They could have believed the system was rigged, as the “Stop the Steal” movement claims, in which case there would be no point in voting. They could be more attracted to the theater, violence or attention they would get from a demonstration like the one at the Capitol than to actually achieving their purported goal — in this case, different election results. Stern speculated that it was a combination of these reasons, adding that feelings of anger and humiliation often draw people to extremist groups and violence. She said that for someone to actually cast a vote, “you would have to believe in the ethic of voting more than you thought it was a waste of time…and see it as a moral imperative. You have to believe the system works for everyone, that it’s for the good of the country.” And NBC News has a story this week about the impact the ongoing threats to elections officials is having as well as the impact of disinformation. Lisa Deeley, one of three commissioners in Philadelphia who run the city’s elections, said she used to feel like the job was a lot like being a wedding planner. But in 2020, she was accosted on the street and needed a police escort wherever she went. And it’s taken a toll. “I often feel unsafe as a result of the November election,” she said. “I’m looking over my shoulder, I’m looking in my rearview mirror, I’ve had nightmares. It’s definitely had a pronounced effect on me – and my family.”
The Wisconsin Elections Commission released a report this week on the 2020 election cycle in the Badger State. More Wisconsinites voted in November’s election than ever before and the shows there were very few problems and no evidence of fraud. Just about every village, town, and city in Wisconsin dealt with more absentee ballot requests than ever before—almost two million statewide. That high absentee turnout paired with very few rejected ballots. 95% of absentee ballots for the November General Election were returned and counted. Only 0.2% were rejected, which is consistent with past elections. Key Figures From Report: Nearly 3.3 million Wisconsin residents voted in the General Election – representing more than 72% of the state’s Voting Age Population of 4,536,417; An entirely new absentee ballot tracking system on MyVote Wisconsin was used more than 1.5 million times by Wisconsin voters; Wisconsin Elections Commission staff responded to more than 300 calls and emails per hour on Election Day; In-person voting on Election Day more than tripled between April and November, which required election officials to manage both the increase in absentee voting and prepare for high voter turnout on November 3. One of the more staggering findings of the report was the amount of traffic to the state’s voting website and calls from the public. “You know, this data really tells the story of our election in black and white facts,” said Meagan Wolfe, WEC administrator. Wolfe pointed to the amount of traffic on the MyVoteWI.gov website, with millions of visits in the leadup to Nov. 3; same for telephone and email volume, making more than 300 contacts per hour on Election Day.
In one of the stranger stories this week, Teresa Elberson, director of the Lafayette Parish, Louisiana public library system, retired suddenly late last week, days after library board members criticized the selection of speakers they dubbed too “far left” for a book discussion on the history of voting rights. Elberson had worked for the library system for 38 years and was appointed director in 2016. According to The Advocate, the library board of control rejected a $2,700 grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities because, some said, the speakers were too “far left” and would not provide a balanced discussion of a book about the history of voting rights. They also chastised Elberson for not following their order to hire two speakers who would provide “opposing perspectives” on the subject of voting rights. Board members said they are concerned about the library system’s image with conservative voters, who make up much of the parish’s voting population. The library system, in a news release Monday — the first day of Black History Month — said board members felt “some of the more current topics to be covered in the program were political and potentially controversial in nature” and the board’s goal is “to ensure that the library, as a government agency, should remain a politically neutral, or apolitical, entity.” Some of the topics that may have been discussed, based on the selected books, included historic and contemporary voter suppression practices, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 2013 Supreme Court decision that invalidated key portions of the Voting Rights Act and the disenfranchisement of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Americans. State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette, in a news release Tuesday, called the library board’s decision to reject a $2,700 Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities grant for a community discussion on books about the history of voting rights “incomprehensible.”
Personnel News: Kathy Bookvar has resigned as the Pennsylvania secretary of state. The Richmond, Virginia electoral board has voted to remove General Registrar Kirk Showalter, a position she has held since 1995. Carry Smith has resigned from the Chattham County, Georgia board of elections. Kim Driver Luton has been appointed to the DeKalb County, Tennessee election commission. Jessalyn McFarland has been appointed interim director of the Crawford County, Pennsylvania election & voter services office. Elaine Bole, Dewey Beach, Delaware election chair has been named volunteer of the year. Russell Bridges is retiring at the Chatham County, Georgia elections supervisor. Billy Wooten will serve as the interim elections supervisor in Chatham County. Sharon Sweda has been selected to fill a vacant seat on the Lorain County, Ohio board of elections. Jeannette Tait is stepping down as the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania board of elections chairwoman. Nancy Grandillo has been appointed to serve on the Seneca County, Ohio board of elections. Stacey Abrams has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Election Security Updates
CISA: During a briefing with the members of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Brandon Wales, interim director of CISA said the agency may have made a mistake by aggressively combating disinformation that was popular with conservatives during the 2020 election. “This agency has long benefited from broad bipartisan support in this country and with our colleagues on the Hill, and I think that future political leadership will not want to jeopardize that,” Wales said during. “And so I think we need to look at the appropriate role that CISA plays when it comes to countering disinformation.” According to Politico, asked to clarify Wales’ remarks, a CISA spokesperson said the agency remained proud of its work on its Rumor Control fact-checking page and described it as “an example of where CISA was able to add value during the 2020 election by successfully debunking disinformation.” “We stand by that work and will continue to call out disinformation when it relates to our mission and expertise, while at the same time ensuring we’re responsive to the feedback of the election community,” said the spokesperson, who insisted on anonymity to discuss a senior official’s remarks. Wales said that after taking over CISA following the firing of former Director Chris Krebs, he sought to steer the agency away from controversial projects such as Rumor Control. His direction to employees, he said, was, “Let’s get back to basics — providing the best cyber and physical security products and services and guidance to election officials.”
IT-ISAC: 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered for COVID-19–However, 2020 also marked the 20th Anniversary of the Information-Technology Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Despite the uncertainties, disruptions, and havoc unleashed by the pandemic, the IT-ISAC experienced one of its most successful years. This week, the IT-ISAC released its 2020 Annual Report that details milestones and achievements from our 20th year. We helped members understand and navigate new threats posed by COVID-19, improved and introduced new analytic reports, forged partnerships across the globe, increased membership at a record rate, and expanded our marketing and communications.
Iowa: Secretary of State Paul Pate announced a plan to provide grants of $10,000 to each Iowa county for election cybersecurity enhancements. The grants will build upon Iowa’s solid foundation of cyber defenses. “Protecting elections with proven cybersecurity methods is a top priority for my office. The security and integrity of Iowa’s elections is strong, and these grants will help ensure they remain strong by boosting our cyber maturity,” Pate said. Last year, Pate adopted several new administrative rules to strengthen the security of Iowa’s elections. The rules cover guidelines such as the development of incident response plans, reporting requirements, and improved password strength. They also mandate that counties utilize cyber hygiene scans, assessments, and tools from the Iowa Office of Chief Information Officer and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security unless the county already receives similar services from a private vendor. “The emerging cybersecurity threats to our elections have to be confronted at all levels of government. That can be especially challenging in smaller counties with limited resources,” said Ringgold County Auditor Amanda Waske. “These grants are a great step toward advancing election security in all counties.” The vast majority of Iowa’s county election websites have moved to the DotGov domains after Secretary Pate authorized payments to reimburse counties for the transition. The DotGov domain assures voters they are receiving election information from a trusted source. The funding to assist counties with cybersecurity services comes from a federal grant to Iowa through the Help America Vote Act.
Federal Legislation: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill to ease a major financial burden on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) by eliminating a requirement that it fund retirement benefits decades ahead of time. The USPS Fairness Act would do away with a 2006 law that mandated the USPS to form a $72 billion fund to pay for retirement health benefits for over 50 years, a requirement that is not imposed on any other federal agency. “The unreasonable prefunding mandate has threatened the survival of the USPS and placed at risk vital services for the millions who rely on it. The prefunding mandate policy is based on the absurd notion of paying for the retirement funds of people who do not yet, and may not ever, work for the Postal Service,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) said in a statement. The introduction of the legislation comes as President Biden faces pressure from the biggest Postal Service union to install new USPS leadership. The department was thrust into the national spotlight late in the Trump administration for changes to mail delivery that critics said would impact the collection of mail-in ballots in a way that would benefit then-President Trump.
Arizona: Rep. Shawanna Bolick (R), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced the bill, which rewrites parts of the state’s election law, such as sections on election observers and securing and auditing ballots, among other measures. One section grants the Legislature, which is currently under GOP control, the ability to revoke the secretary of state’s certification at any time before the presidential inauguration. “Notwithstanding Subsection A of this section, the legislature retains its legislative authority regarding the office of presidential elector and by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration may revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election,” according to the bill. “The legislature may take action pursuant to this subsection without regard to whether the legislature is in regular or special session or has held committee or other hearings on the matter.”
Arizona officials are once again at odds over the state’s elections procedures manual which the secretary of state updates every two years. The secretary of state must submit a draft of the manual by Oct. 1 of odd-numbered years. The governor and attorney general then have two months to review and approve the hundreds of pages of instructions. On 5-3 party line votes, Republicans on the Senate Government Committee advanced two proposals that would take oversight away from the governor and attorney general. Senate Bill 1329 would give oversight of the manual to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives that’s controlled by Republican lawmakers. Senate Bill 1068 would give oversight authority to legislative council, the attorneys for the Arizona Legislature, and the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council, a panel of officials appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey who traditionally review new rules or amendments that dictate state agency operations.
Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita is proposing restrictions on the ability of county recorders in Arizona to hold voter registration drives on non-government property. Ugenti-Rita said this takes politics out of the equation by precluding recorders from picking and choosing where to set up shop based on which group they hope to get registered. The bill, SB 1358, passed on a 5-3 party-line vote in the Republican-dominated Senate Government Committee on Monday and now goes to the full Senate.
Rep. Shawna Bolick, R-Phoenix, would only allow emergency voting \in times of war, civil unrest or a natural disaster. The proposal, House Bill 2722, would also allow voters to videotape and photograph election workers inside polling places, something that is expressly forbidden in current law. The bill also removes sections from the current law that allows a county recorder to establish an emergency voting center without approval from the board of supervisors in times of an emergency.
Arkansas: The Arkansas House approved legislation making the state’s voter ID law stricter by no longer allowing people without identification to cast a ballot, even if they sign a statement affirming their identity. The majority-Republican House voted 75-20 in favor of the bill revising the state’s 2017 voter ID law, sending the measure to the state Senate. The proposal needed at 67 votes in the 100-member House since it changes an amendment voters approved in 2018 that places the voter ID requirement in the state’s Constitution. It will need at least 24 votes in the 35-member Senate.
Georgia: Republican state senators introduced a package of bills to ban automatic voter registration, ballot drop boxes and no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia. One measure would prevent voters from being automatically registered to vote when they get their driver’s licenses. Another would ban drop boxes, requiring absentee ballots to be returned through the mail or at county election offices. In addition, a proposal would roll back a state law allowing registered voters to cast an absentee ballot for any reason. Absentee voting would be limited to those over 75 years old, voters with disabilities or anyone required to be absent from his or her precinct. “We’ve got to restore confidence in the ballot box. When people lose confidence in the ballot box they ultimately lose confidence in their government,” said Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, a Republican from Gainesville and co-sponsor of the bills. “Our goal is to be sure every vote is accounted for, accurate and legal.” Democrats said the bills mark a concerted effort to reduce voting access. “It’s voter suppression. If you restrict access, then people get discouraged and they don’t vote. They don’t come back,” said Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, a Democrat from Stone Mountain. “We have to make the argument that it’s a good process. People were able to vote, and they voted in record numbers.”
Rep. Ron Stephens said the local delegation is considering introducing legislation that would combine the Chatham County Board of Elections and the Board of Registrars. Most counties in Georgia combine the various elections duties into one department. Chatham County is the largest county in the state that still has a separate Board of Elections and Board of Registrars. Board of Elections Chairman Tom Mahoney says both boards are operating as efficiently as ever and working well with each other. But he adds combining the two entities might help clear up the public’s confusion about what components of an election each is responsible for.
Indiana: Senate Bill 398, authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, is a massive piece of legislation that would address and tweak several state laws regarding elections to make the process smoother and more standardized. This 63-page bill has 25 different components, so far. The bill is a cumulative response to a collection of election laws that needed to be tweaked based on issues Walker noticed the last two years, particularly during the 2020 presidential election when a record-number of Hoosiers voted by mail. A main piece of the legislation is standardizing the process of counting and verifying absentee ballots. Many of the details in the bill outline more specific procedures for handling absentee ballots, particularly if a signature on the envelope is questionable. If the bill becomes law, an absentee board would have to agree unanimously whether to keep or throw out a ballot if a signature is disputed. If a ballot is rejected, the voter must be notified by mail or phone so they have enough time to come in and verify their signature, according to the proposed legislation. Notifying voters that their absentee ballot is rejected is not required by state law.
Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) has introduced legislation that would extend the voter registration deadline. Currently law requires Hoosiers to register to vote at least 29 days before an election, Pfaff’s bill would potentially allow voters to register the day before election day. “For me that’s just way too long. People don’t start paying attention to elections until about a week before,” Pfaff said. “So get it down to a week before. That’s fine. But 29 days to me is just built on a very antiquated system.” The bill is currently waiting to be heard by the Election and Appointments Committee.
Kansas: Senate Bill 35 would remove the option for extending the deadline to receive advance ballots in Kansas. Right now, ballots must be postmarked by election day in Kansas. But, they only count if they arrive at the county election office within three days after the election. The current law also allows the Secretary of State’s office to extend the deadline. Lawmakers held a senate committee hearing Thursday for a new bill, Senate Bill 35, that would remove this option. some lawmakers fear it’s an act of voter suppression, explaining that the chance for delays with the U.S. postal service prior to election day could be an issue where the extension is needed. supporters of the bill say three days should be enough time for the advance ballots to come in, making the option for an extension unnecessary.
Maine: A bill that would give Maine municipal clerks more time to process absentee ballots ran into opposition from some Republican lawmakers who raised concerns about whether it would increase the risk of voter fraud. The processing time for absentee ballots was extended from four days to seven for the last election under an executive order issued by Gov. Janet Mills in response to high demand from residents who wanted to avoid voting in person to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19. A bill to make the seven-day processing period permanent is among dozens of measures before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that would affect elections and voting. The bill is supported by Secretary of State Shenna Bellows and several nonprofits that support changing ballot-processing procedures.
Maryland: Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) has introduced Senate Bill 72 that would require all executive branch agencies and local boards of elections to live-stream their meetings. In addition to the live-streaming requirement would require those agencies to post all of their meeting materials and agendas online at least 48 hours before each open meeting, and allow public access to archived meeting recordings and minutes. The bill, which is cross-filed in the House by Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery) allows state agencies and local boards of elections leeway in the event of emergencies and other “unanticipated situations.”
Mississippi: Under current law, county election commissioners may remove a person’s name from a voter roll if that person has died, moved away, been judged mentally incompetent or been convicted of a disenfranchising crime. Under House Bill 4 and Senate Bill 2588 commissioners would also be required to remove the name of a person who fails to vote at least once during four-year period and fails to respond to certified mail from the election commission that seeks to confirm the person still lives at the address where they are registered. Voters’ names could not be purged from the rolls within 90 days of an election, and the county would have to maintain records for at least four years showing a purged name and the reason the name was removed from the rolls.
In addition to HB 4 and SB 2588 House and Senate members filed 27 bills pertaining to changes they believe need to be made to the way Mississippians can vote. The bills ranged in topics from early voting and restoring voting rights to felons to getting rid of partisan primaries and purging voter rolls.
Missouri: Roughly a year after the Missouri Supreme Court gutted a 2016 ID law, Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, came with a new version. Under his proposal, only people with photo IDs would be allowed to cast a regular ballot. People without a photo ID would instead cast a provisional ballot that would be counted only if their signature on it matches the one on their voter registration file. It’s not clear whether Simmons’ idea would survive another lawsuit. A 5-2 majority of high court judges deemed a similar concept “nonsensical” last year. Simmons did not appear to care. He said the provisional ballot option would offer a secured safety net for those without photo IDs while “protecting other voters who would otherwise be disenfranchised” by fraud.
Montana: The House State Administration Committee has tabled House Bill 176 that would have ended same day registration. The bill would have moved the last day for voter registration to the Friday before Election Day. It first failed to pass on an 8-11 vote. The panel then voted 13-6 to table the bill. Opponents of the bill said it disenfranchised Native communities who may have to travel long distances to the polls. Rep. Jessica Karjala, D-Billings, said closing access for vulnerable groups could expose the state to liabilities. Rep. Denise Hayman, D-Bozeman, said she wouldn’t vote for a bill that would overturn a 2014 statewide vote on same-day registration after 57% voted to keep it. However, on Tuesday, the House State Administration Committee voted first to bring back the bill, then amend it to close voter registration at noon the day before an election. The bill cleared the committee on a 10-9 vote and next heads to the House floor.
Senate Bill 169 is being carried by Sen. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka and would add new restrictions to the types of identification voters need when casting their ballots in Montana. Under Montana election law, photo identification that includes the voter’s name is already required to cast a ballot in person. But Cuffe’s bill would require a second form of ID if a voter shows up with certain forms of photo identification that are currently accepted, such as student IDs or membership cards, like those used at Costco. Other forms of identification, such as state driver’s licenses, state photo IDs, military IDs and tribal photo IDs would remain acceptable at the polls. Committee member Sen. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, suggested the change in law would disproportionately affect certain types of voters. “This is a new burden that you’re putting on people that don’t fit into those specific categories,” he said. “Why are some photo IDs more acceptable than others?” Cuffe responded that the bill attempts to provide a range of options for people who don’t fit into those categories, like allowing a student to pair their school ID with a paycheck or utility bill that includes their address. The bill similarly affects ID requirements for voter registration, but that provision would also accept the last four digits of the applicant’s social security number in lieu of a photo ID.
New Hampshire: A New Hampshire House committee is considering proposals to move the date of state primary elections. Currently, New Hampshire holds state primary elections on the second Tuesday in September. Bills in the Legislature would change that. One would move the primary to June and the other to August. Backers of the bills say holding earlier party primaries will boost political participation; critics say it could do the opposite.
New Jersey: Legislation sponsored by Senator James Beach and Senator Shirley Turner that would allow registered voters to submit an application to vote by mail electronically was approved by the Senate. The bill, S-2820, allows registered voters to submit an application to vote by mail using the state online voter registration website up to seven days before election day. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 27-3.
The Senate passed bipartisan legislation that would require classes on civics to be taught in the state’s middle schools. The bill passed by a vote of 33-0 with both sides calling the legislation important. The bill would direct the state’’s department of education to require at least one course specifically in civics or United States government as part of the social studies credit requirement for middle school graduation. The bill — which would be named “Laura Wooten’s Law” for the late Laura Wooten, a woman from Mercer County who passed away in March of 2019 and holds the record as the longest, continuously serving poll worker in the United States — would also direct the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers to prepare curriculum guidelines and provide professional development for high school teachers integrating civics, economics and the history of New Jersey into United States history courses.
New Mexico: The House Judiciary Committee voted 6-4 to support House Bill 74 which would restore voting rights for felons while they are still on probation or parole. The bill would also make it easier for felons to register to vote as they leave prison. The vote fell along party lines, with Democrats supporting the legislation and Republicans opposing it. The bill will head to the floor, its sponsor, Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, said Wednesday. Chasey said restoring voting rights to people who have served their time helps them “engage in their communities and not go back to prison.”
North Dakota: A proposal at the State Capitol aims to have more polling locations open on Election Day. House Bill 1238 states that any city that has a population of over 1,000 people must have at least one polling location on the day of statewide elections. During testimony, one question that was raised is whether it would be possible to staff so many voting sites. The Association of Counties said it expects that wouldn’t be an issue. Rep. Jim Kasper, who introduced the bill, says rural North Dakotans shouldn’t have to travel so far just to cast a vote. “We have inclement weather that you can’t travel 50 miles to vote. They’ve been looking all forward on Election Day and they can’t get there. So we need to have polls available for our citizens of our state to be able to vote. That’s one of the primary purposes of House Bill 1238,” said Kasper. The bill also would also require each legislative district to have at least one polling place.
Ohio: The Ohio Senate again is considering a bill that would toughen standards for the companies that provide software counties use to maintain their voter-registration lists, after a previous version failed during last December’s lame duck session. Senate Bill 14 would create the Board of Voting Systems Examiners, which would be responsible for vetting companies that provide voter-registration systems. The new agency is a rebranding of the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners, which provides oversight to voting machines and electronic pollbooks used by poll workers. The bill also would give Secretary of State Frank LaRose authority to develop standards the voter registration systems would have to follow.
Oklahoma: Sen. Adam Pugh, (R-Edmond), has filed Senate Bill 440 to extend in-person early voting from three days to one week. Under SB 440, voters could cast an early in-person ballot the entire week, Monday through Saturday, preceding any election at their county election board. Currently, this type of early in-person voting is only available the Thursday through Saturday before an election. Pugh argues that Oklahoma’s short in-person voting timeframe can deter citizens from voting. “I waited four hours to vote on election day, and I’m afraid most people are too busy or aren’t physically able to stand in line that long,” Pugh said. “We need to provide adequate time to vote early just like other states to give Oklahomans more flexibility, which will hopefully entice more citizens to participate in the election process.”
Texas: House Bill 1128 clarifies who is allowed in polling locations and protects the facilities where mail-in-ballots are counted from individuals who should not be there. According to the Jacksonville Progress, the bill will further secure Texas elections by explicitly listing which people are permitted into polling locations and ballot counting areas. Election judges, chosen by both major parties, have the ability to request security, technology assistance, translators, and other pertinent services. This bill securing Texas voting locations would preclude individuals and elected officials who have no role in the administration of elections from loitering inside facilities where election activities are taking place. Certain protected individuals, such as poll watchers, will continue to receive access to polling facilities.
Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D – Houston) has filed legislation that will allow voters to bring a cell phone with them into the voting booth and use it for voting assistance. Currently voters can only bring paper notes with them into the polling place.
Bills have been filed in the House and Senate that would allow voters to cure their mail ballots. Additionally, the legislation in both chambers would prevent a voters’ email address from being disclosed.
Rep. Cole Hefner is proposing House Bill 1314 requiring all components of voting equipment to be American-made. He says the bill would protect the integrity of Texas elections. Hefner calls HB 1314 simple and straight-forward. The bill not only requires all parts to be American-made but also the companies manufacturing the equipment, and their parent companies must be located and headquartered in the United States. Also, data and equipment storage must remain in the United States. Hefner said elections are the responsibility of each individual state making the bill a proactive preventative measure keeping Texas elections safe and secure.
Utah: Under HB152 candidates would be limited to what nicknames they can list on ballots. bill would only allow the candidate’s given name or abbreviated version of it, middle name, surname, initials or an “acquired name” they can prove they are “generally known by” for five years or longer. Common nicknames such as Hank for Henry or Harvey, or Alex for Alexis or Alexander or Liz for Elizabeth would be readily accepted and are not considered nicknames, but shortened names. Titles like “boss” or “representative” wouldn’t qualify as nicknames because they are descriptions given to someone in certain positions of responsibility. According to the Desert News, “Tooter” would apparently be OK but “Frugal” may be a little too liberal with the rules. It’s unclear if “Frugal Tooter” though would pass the nickname smell test.
Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, is sponsoring HB127, which aims to use ranked-choice voting in partisan primary elections with three or more candidates. “Ranked-choice voting is popular on both sides of the aisle,” said Winder. “Both the Republican and Democratic conventions used it last year with a 90% approval rating. They loved it.” The Clerk/Auditor Association of Utah is wary of making another change to Utah’s elections on the heels of moving to an all vote-by-mail system in recent years. “The greatest lesson that was learned was the importance in consistency in voting methods,” the group said in a public statement. “The considerations currently being discussed provide for only occasional, or conditional implementation of an alternative voting method. This approach is problematic as it creates different rules for different elections, and changes voters’ expectations from election to election.”
Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake) has filed a bill that change the deadline for receiving and accepting mail ballots. For the primary election in June last year, lawmakers changed the deadline for post-marked ballots to Election Day, rather than the day before. It was just one of a number of election changes made by lawmakers due to the pandemic. But that change expired before the general election in November. King’s bill seeks to make that pandemic change permanent. He said changing the deadline for ballots to be postmarked to Election Day would clear up confusion and increase turnout.
Virginia: House Bill 1890, also known as the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, cleared the House in a 55-45 vote. Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, modeled the bill after the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Price’s bill aims to eliminate voter suppression, intimidation and discrimination through changes in voting laws and practices by election officials. The bill prohibits localities from influencing the results of elections by “diluting or abridging the rights of voters who are from a protected class.” The measure defines the protected class as a group of citizens protected from discrimination based on race, color, or membership in a language minority group. The bill also requires voting materials to be made in languages other than English if certain criteria are met. The bill allows the attorney general to sue if a locality or official violates election laws. Fees or fines that are won in the lawsuit will go to a Voter Education and Outreach Fund established pursuant to the bill’s passage. The fine for a first offense cannot exceed $50,000 and fines for a second offense cannot exceed $100,000.
Washington: SB 5148 would provide added legal protections for election workers over and above what existing anti-harassment laws provide. The added protections are parallel what elected officials and law enforcement have including the confidentiality of home addresses. The bill proposed has added elements that protect elected officials from intimidation and harassment and includes any who “harasses an election official because of an action taken or decision made by the election official during the performance of his or her official duties”
Arizona: The Arizona Coalition to End Jail-Based Disenfranchisement as sued the Apache County sheriff and recorder after not responding for nearly a year to public records requests on how eligible inmates in jail have access to vote. The coalition studies access to elections among eligible voters in correctional facilities. The Campaign Legal Center, a partner of the coalition, began requesting public records in March 2020 from all of Arizona’s 15 sheriffs and recorders to understand what voting procedures were in place for those incarcerated in jails and how many inmates had voted. The lawsuit was filed in Apache County Superior Court by the Campaign Legal Center and the ACLU of Arizona. The county did not immediately respond to The Arizona Republic’s request for comment.
Florida: A settlement has been reached between voting rights advocates and 32 counties over Spanish-language voting materials. The settlement provides for Spanish language ballots, election material, hotlines, options on websites, assistance at polls, and signs at election supervisors’ offices in the 32 counties. The Rivera v. Barton lawsuit filed in 2018 by racial and voter justice organizations argued that election officials had not complied with the Voting Rights Act when they didn’t provide ballots and information in Spanish to Spanish-speaking voters who had recently moved to Florida from Puerto Rico. The counties that settled the lawsuit are Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Hernando, Highlands, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Leon, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Pasco, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Sumter, Taylor, and Wakulla. Only one of the 32 counties, Charlotte, opted not to be part of the settlement, which means they can be subject to further litigation.
Kansas: Kansas could be on the hook for nearly $3.3 million in attorney fees and expenses after losing a lawsuit that challenged a state law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The latest filing in the case asked the U.S. Court for the District of Kansas to award the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees of more than $2.9 million and non-taxable expenses of nearly $383,000 in litigation that spanned almost five years. The American Civil Liberties Union said in the court filing late Thursday that the case was necessary to remedy a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right” and an erosion of confidence in the electoral system caused by the Kansas law.
Michigan: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed motions seeking sanctions over three Michigan lawyers and Sidney Powell from Texas. The attorneys are accused of attempting to overturn Joe Biden’s electoral victory in Michigan. Nessel’s office claims that the attorneys violated their oaths as well as court rules. Nessel wants to recover $11,000 in attorney fees as well as have professional disciplinary action taken on those lawyers.
Antrim County Circuit Judge Kevin A. Elsenheimer ordered Michigan election officials to turn over a wide variety of records related to the 2020 election cycle, including any communications with Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple as part of a recent lawsuit. Elsenheimer also ordered Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and her Bureau of Elections to turn over election-related communications between the offices and Antrim Township, Antrim County, state and federal legislators, as well as Dominion Voting System and Election Source, companies that supply voting machines and software used in Antrim County and much of Michigan. The records were requested by Portage-based Attorney Matthew S. DePerno on behalf of his client, William Bailey, an Antrim County voter who sued Antrim County over claims the election results were fraudulent and voting machines rigged.
New York: New York State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte issued a temporary stay to Oneida County, enjoining or stopping them from certifying the results of the NY-22 election in the county. This ruling only affects Oneida; the other seven counties in the district are still allowed to certify their election results Tuesday, at least for the moment. Earlier in the day, former Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D) requested the court to order a full manual audit of the more than 325,000 votes cast in the race, citing irregularities in the difference between machine and hand count vote totals. As of Monday morning, Brindisi trails former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) by 122 votes; her lead increased from 29 votes when Oneida County reported the results of its correction of the DMV voter registration errors. The justice issued the stay largely to answer one question: if the counties were to certify Tenney (who represented the district in the 115th Congress) as the current winner, would the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court have the jurisdiction to unseat her from Congress.
Texas: The city of McAllen has filed a lawsuit in Travis County, fighting a law that requires cities to hand control of local elections to Hidalgo County. Joining in on the lawsuit is the city of Pharr. City attorney’s representing McAllen said the law is unconstitutional. The 2009 Texas Law, Senate Bill 1402, required the city to contract with Hidalgo County to run their May elections. The law says if just one percent of people who voted in the most recent city elections, file a petition, the city must contract with the county to run elections. The city said the law does not protect the rights of residents nor does it protect the integrity of the election. “We’ve asked the court to enter an injunction allowing us, and we anticipate that McAllen will host their own elections. We will challenge the statute till the end of the lawsuit,” said Tawil.
Virginia: Richmond’s former general registrar Kirk Showalter is preparing to file a lawsuit in state court against the Electoral Board that voted to remove her this week. Richmond’s Electoral Board voted 2-1 to dismiss Showalter from the post she’s held for 25 years. Showalter has hired a team of lawyers, Linda Woods and Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), to defend her and reinstate her position. “I asked they’d delay the hearing so we could have an appropriate due process,” Stanley said. “So we can gather the information we needed to defend her and also to have notice exactly what the charges are because they’re kind of vague.” Board Chair Jim Nachman told CBS 6 that he couldn’t talk specifics about Showalter’s performance citing personnel matters. He also said Showalter was not entitled to due process since the meeting was not a legal proceeding. Stanley disagrees. “The charges they made last night did not purport to any lawful reason to remove her from her office,” Stanley said. “It’s a position created by the statute and she had an absolute right to due process. We are going to fight to make sure her reputation is restored. We are going to fight to make sure her job is restored.”
Opinions This Week
Connecticut: Ranked choice voting
Florida: Election administration
Hawaii: Automatic voter registration
Iowa: Election integrity
Kentucky: Civics lessons
Montana: Election legislation
Nevada: Voting rights
New Jersey: Election reform
New Mexico: Voter registration
North Dakota: Election legislation
Ohio: Stark County
Pennsylvania: Voter suppression
Tennessee: Election reform
Texas: Voting machines
Validating Common Data Format Implementations: Ensuring conformance against the election common data formats shouldn’t be hard. Thankfully, there are time tested techniques to validate data exchanges against standard formats. In this webinar, we will explore different approaches to common data format validation, how to specify the data points required for particular implementations, and a case study using the tools with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Topics include: What a schema can validate; Performing schema validation; Specifying required and disallowed elements with subsetting; and Validating state and local business rules with Schematron. When February 10, 1pm Eastern. Where: Online.
EAC Meeting to Vote on Adoption of VVSG 2.0: The U.S. Election Assistance Commission will vote on the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0 on Wednesday, February 10. The VVSG 2.0 represents a significant advancement in defining standards that will serve as the template for the next generation of secure, accessible, and accurate voting systems. If adopted, VVSG 2.0 would be the fifth iteration of national-level voting system standards. During the meeting, Commissioners will hear a presentation from EAC Executive Director Mona Harrington about the updates to the VVSG, a policy recommendation, and the work that went into getting VVSG 2.0 to this point. When: February 10, 10 a.m. Eastern. Where: Online.
Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to email@example.com. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Bilingual Coordinator/Clerk, York County, Pennsylvania— Assist in the voter registration and election process. Coordinates all bilingual activities of the Election/Voter Registration Office. Assemble and pack supplies for local election boards. Answer telephone. Assist in the voter registration and election process including scanning signatures. Assist at the front counter. File as required. Assist Spanish-speaking voters, candidates and other members of the public through interpretation and service. Coordinate all bilingual activities of the Election/Voter Registration Office. Speak before various community groups concerning the election/voter registration process. Other reasonable duties as assigned by Supervisor. Salary: $11.50/hr. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Certification Project Manager, Hart InterCIvic— The Certification Project Manager manages state and federal certification projects of our Hardware and Software products, under the direction of the Sr. Director of Product Management. The Certification Project Manager must be able to exercise sound judgment and interact with regulatory authorities in a professional manner, particularly in high-pressure situations. Essential Duties and Responsibilities (Other duties may be assigned): Submit state/federal certification application materials; Plan for and coordinate logistics for onsite state/federal certification activities; Lead onsite state/federal certification activities; Provide follow up to state/federal certification activities. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Director of Operations, Department of Elections, Virginia– This position provides executive leadership, supervision, and direction for Department of Elections’ operations. The position will support and collaborate with the Commissioner in creating, planning, and executing the agency’s strategic plan. The Director of Operations acts on behalf of the Commissioner in their absence or as delegated to make decisions related to operational objectives, supervise agency staff, manage agency operations, and successfully produce results. The Director of Operations will also support and implement programs, including reporting and progress updates, as directed by the Commissioner. The position will develop and maintain collaborative relationships and teamwork across the agency and with other agencies and external partners. Additionally, the position will champion continuous improvement of processes to streamline and improve agency operations. The Director of Operations will provide continuity of agency operations across administrations and ensure agency effectiveness. Salary: up to $120,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Services Manager, Douglas County, Colorado— The Election Services Manager is responsible for the management and coordination of elections administrative operations, voter registration, mapping for voting districts and precincts, addressing library, and support for mail ballot processing as directed by the leadership team. The objective of this position is to perform a variety of functions and diverse leadership roles on a routine basis, including performance management for a team of Election Specialists. This is a highly visible position requiring exceptional leadership, organizational, and communication skills. The Election Services Manager is responsible for oversight of responsibilities within the elections office and Voter Service and Polling Centers, coaching and supervision of staff; creation and enforcement of policies, procedures, and state and federal statutes and regulations; creation and execution of strategic and tactical plans for operating successful elections; coordination of election functions with entities participating in a County election or conducting their own election; managing key vendor relationships and election assets. Coordinates with and assists other Clerk & Recorder Divisions as needed. Salary: $57,430 – 86,145. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Information Technology Director, Leon County, Florida: This is an executive level position on the management team at the Leon County Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE). Our IT Director is a highly innovative position that requires managing and protecting technology for the SOE, supervising technical staff, creating and maintaining documentation, budgeting for technology needs, and a devotion to protecting voting integrity. The IT Director supports the SOE’s mission and maintains operational continuity. They work closely with Leon County’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) Department and are expected to be available to respond to all technical issues and external threats. This role will often require technical support hours outside the traditional business schedule in order to monitor and assure the functionality and security of computer and network systems. Salary: $80,443-$132,731. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Logistics Specialist, Wake County, North Carolina— The Wake County Board of Elections is currently seeking an experienced Logistics Specialist to join our Team. The ideal candidate will have experience in planning and conducting elections at the county level and be exceptionally organized and detail oriented. As the primary warehouse team leader, you will oversee the warehouse daily operations, oversee elections supplies inventory and packing, ensure election documents are up to date, oversee supply distribution and return to and from our 206 polling places, communicate with vendors, assist with budget planning, maintain election records according to retention schedules, receive supply deliveries, and process supply orders. As a part of this Team, you are responsible for all polling place and supply inventory management, orchestrating staff, events, vendors, and supplies to ensure successful elections. Salary Hiring Range: $18.36 – $24.78. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voter Information Coordinator (Elections Specialist), Pierce County, Washington— This individual will play an integral part in carrying out and conducting elections in Pierce County and in the day to day operations. This position supports the foundational aspect of our democratic process while providing services and outreach to our customers. Core Daily Responsibilities: Design and produce all publications, reports, manuals, flyers, legal advertisements, related election materials including Voter Pamphlets, and all jobs using a variety of desktop publishing software. Perform quality control work including proofreading, grammar, and spelling. Create and manage the voter pamphlet including submission of statements from candidates and committees. Active role in candidate filing and resolution submission. This work includes communicating with candidates and jurisdictions. Create ballot inserts for each election. Coordinate the language translation program of the voter pamphlet, ballot materials, and voter outreach materials. Work in conjunction with office media specialist to update and maintain social media accounts. Update website with relevant election information. Produce an accurate Voters’ Pamphlet for each election. Voter outreach to live and virtual audiences, upon request attend community events to educate prospective voters, supports school districts, colleges and universities with election related events and programs. Salary Hiring Range: $31.42 – $39.73 Hourly. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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